Ben Wright

Ben Wright

"The companies featured in this publication are the building blocks of the economy of tomorrow"

Sponsor foreword by Ben Wright, Business Editor, The Telegraph 

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are too easily ignored. By definition, individual firms don’t employ many staff or generate much turnover or have many investors – not compared to the behemoths in the FTSE100. That is why the sector is too often overlooked. But collectively, SMEs power the UK economy. They account for 99.3% of private sector businesses, are responsible for 60% of private sector employment and generate 52% of private sector turnover, according to the Federation of Small Business.

That is why The Telegraph is proud to have partnered with London Stock Exchange Group on every edition of 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain. The companies featured in this publication are the building blocks of the economy of tomorrow. It is right that these firms, and firms like them, are identified and celebrated.

The companies included in this report paint a picture of the future of the British economy that is regionally and sectorally diverse. More than half of the firms featured are from outside London and the South East. The largest industry represented is engineering and construction – once again dispelling the oft-repeated myth that the UK doesn’t make anything anymore.

Some of the companies profiled in these pages are already household names, such as Innis & Gunn, Joseph Joseph and LendInvest. They are following in the footsteps of start-ups like Just Eat, which was formed in 2006, featured in this report in 2016 and is now in the FTSE100. With the proper support, there are likely to be many more companies you will read about in this report that will grow to help support the UK economy.

And therein lies the rub. These companies will only be able to fulfil their potential if they have access to the necessary investment. The UK has the most sophisticated financial services industry in the world and is home to the internationally-successful growth capital market, AIM.

But SMEs are still at the back of the queue when it comes to accessing long-term patient capital, with 80% of SME financing coming in the form of debt. SMEs should not be restricted to finance that comes with so many strings attached that companies are impeded in their ambition.

If we are serious about building an economy that works for everyone, we should ensure suitable patient capital flows to all our SMEs, so they all have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Innovation must be fostered, potential nurtured and entry to new markets encouraged. The Government must widen access to patient, long-term, equity capital and put access to finance at the heart of its industrial strategy.